Children’s Book Review: The Sheep that Saved Christmas (Talk of the Town #37)

Welcome back to #TalkoftheTown, a weekly link-up I am co-hosting with Shaz from Jera’s Jamboree. We’d love you to share your book related blog posts with us. Please visit my Talk of the Town page if you are unsure of how a link-up works. We are looking forward to reading your blog posts.

For this week’s Talk of the Town, I am sharing our thoughts on the children’s book The Sheep that Saved Christmas.


I know it’s still only October and some might think it might be too early for Christmassy books – not my family though :-). We discovered it the other day at The Works (they had a fantastic deal on a variety of children’s book) and couldn’t help ourselves, but to buy it.

Since then, we’ve read the story a few times as a bedtime read for our little girl and we all really enjoy this book. The heroine in this book is a little sheep who loves Christmas. All of her friend are fed up by the sheep’s constant Christmas talk and decide to buy her a ticket to the North pole to see Santa as an early Christmas present.

Extremely excited,the little sheep gets on the first flight out there. Things don’t go completely to plan, but in the end it is this little sheep that saves Christmas.

The story is really sweet and relatively unique, I thought. Contrary to most children Christmas books in which an animal of some sorts saves Christmas it will usually always be my means of acting as one of Santa’s reindeer – but not in this story.

If there is one thing I’d criticise about this book, it would the font it is written in. I really struggled the first few times to decipher all of the words.


Candy Floss, Glow Sticks and Fireworks

A few days ago, my daughter’s primary school (I am still getting used to writing this – how can my little girl already be in primary school??) put on a huge fireworks evening with several stalls and rides. Our little girl was super excited to go (I wasn’t too sure, as she is not great with fireworks) and we ended up having a fantastic time.

It was actually the first time she tried candy floss. I was secretly speculating on being able to eat at least half of it, but she devoured the whole thing within minutes (yes, this much sugar before bedtime – fun!!). We then went on to explore a few of the other stalls and made our way to the football field to watch the fireworks. The display was fantastic and she watched on in awe. My husband bought her some pink (it had to be pink – she is such a girlie girl) earmuffs, which I think really helped with the noise. We ended up having such a lovely evening. It is these, quite ordinary moments, that I love and appreciate the most!

These pictures are a little grainy – it was super dark and I only had my iPhone on me, but they still mean an awful lot to me.




 I am linking this #MyCapturedMoment with Heledd at Running in Lavender.


What we are doing to create a #brightFuture for our daughter


Truth be told, I have never particularity given too much thought to “green issues”, especially not before we had our daughter. My husband and I lived busy lives (poor excuse, I know) and were generally out and about a lot. Yes, we did our bit by recycling, but that was pretty much it. However, when our daughter was born, I started to consider the future a lot more. All of a sudden there was just not my generation to think about, but also our daughter’s one.

Unilever recently created the #brightFuture initiative which focuses on small changes that can make  big differences and how we can build a world where everyone lives well and lives sustainably. Since the launch of the Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever has helped 482 million people to improve their health and hygiene, including thorough hand washing, improving self-esteem and oral hygiene. As part of the initiative, BritMums and Unilever wanted to know what steps parents take to help in creating a #brightFuture for their children. We accepted the challenge. Here are our thoughts on this matter.

  • Recycling: I believe that this is one of the simplest steps to take – our district council offers a brilliant recycling programme and we are provided with all sorts of bins that are emptied regularly – all there is for us to do is separate our rubbish and sort it into these different bins
  • Walking: We are trying to walk wherever possible and try to avoid using the car too much (this is definitely a new development after we had our daughter – a few years ago, I would take the car even for a short, walkable distance), Not only do we see a drop in our petrol costs, but we are getting a lot more fresh air and doing our bit for the environment at the same time. Our daughter just started primary school a few weeks back. We try and walk to and from school frequently and only sometimes resort to taking the car (usually if we are running late or it is absolutely pouring it down with rain).
  • Saving paper: Our daughter loves to draw and is very much into her arts and crafts. From an early age though, we made sure that she knows not to waste paper. We do let her draw as much as she wants to, but she knows to not just draw one line on a piece of paper and then take a new one. I also keep certain scraps of paper such as bits of wrapping paper (that would have normally gone straight into the bin) for her craft box. Quite often, I will also keep hold of junk mail letters. I find that a lot of the time these include an empty page (usually on the back) and make for brilliant paper for a quick drawing.
  • Saving electricity: We try and make sure that all lights are switched off in rooms that we are not using at the time
  • Hybrid car: my husband recently returned to driving to work, so we needed to get another car. He chose a Honda Insight, as it gives excellent fuel economy and low emissions and encourages you to drive in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • Support brands that focus on improving environmental issues such as Unilever. Not only do I like using Unilever products as they do a brilliant job (Persil has always been my preferred detergent), but they are constantly coming up with fantastic supporting campaigns  For example: Domestos is committed to helping 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet by 2020. Persil has backed a global initiative “Learning for Tomorrow” partnering with UNICEF to help give children in some of the word’s toughest areas the opportunity of a quality education and Dove has developed The Dove Self-Esteem Project which worked closely with leading psychologists, academics and experts to create materials, making a postive impact on 19 million young lives.

Which steps are you taking to create a #brightFuture for your children?

This post is our entry for BritMums #brightFuture Challenge, sponsored by Unilever.

Book Review: All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll (Talk of the Town #36)

Welcome back to #TalkoftheTown, a weekly link-up I am co-hosting with Shaz from Jera’s Jamboree. We’d love you to share your book related blog posts with us. Please visit my Talk of the Town page if you are unsure of how a link-up works. We are looking forward to reading your blog posts.

For this week’s Talk of the Town, I am sharing my review of Claudia Carroll’s newest release All She Ever Wished For. I love Claudia’s books and was hugely excited when this book came through my letter box. I shared an extract of this novel yesterday. In case you missed it, you can read it here.



One chance meeting…Two lives changed forever.

Tess Taylor is gearing up for a wedding day to remember. And nothing is going to get in her way. That is, until an unexpected summons arrives completely out of the blue for jury service. With a million jobs still to do, the timing couldn’t be worse.

Meanwhile Kate King, celebrity socialite, is going through a very public divorce. As if the heartache wasn’t enough to deal with, Kate now has to face a high-profile case as she goes headt o head with her ex-husband.

On the surface, the two women couldn’t be more different, but their worlds collide as the courtroom drama unfolds. And lessons in love and friendship await them both . . .


All She Ever Wished For is such a gripping and magnificent read. I adored the setting of this book – a courtroom (well, among other things obviously). I studied Law a few years ago and was immediately drawn in by the legal background of this novel. Claudia did an amazing job describing the feel and atmosphere of the courtroom. It felt as if I was in the middle of it all and not in the comfort of my own home. It truly shows how much research must have gone into this book.

I always find Claudia Carroll’ s books special and intriguing. With each and every one, you’ll get a romantic element, but always packaged into a gripping and well thought-out storyline. All She Ever Wished For is definitely no exception.

Claudia’s way of storytelling is fantastic. Each chapter is written from either Tess’ or Kate’s point of view. The chapters feel completely contrasted, not only is Tess’ story told in the present and Kate’s through newspaper articles and flashbacks, but they also have a completely different mood and feel to them. For me, this beautifully set the characters apart, but also showed the similarities between these two women.

I found Kate’s character especially engaging. The media portrays her in such a superficial way, but is this truly her character? I loved how the reader only progressively learns more about Kate and has to make up their own mind about her. I thought that this cleverly tied in with the courtroom setting and Tess’ jury duty.

All She Ever Wished For is an amazing read with lots of little elements that come together to form a brilliant storyline. I cannot praise this book highly enough!

Thank you very much to Avon for sending me a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are entirely my own.


Extract from All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll

I am hugely excited to be sharing an extract from Claudia Carroll’s newest release, All She Ever Wished For, with you today. I finished reading this book last night and it is absolutely brilliant!


‘Tess, my sausage, is that you?’ says Bernard, coming out of the kitchen with a sherry in one hand and a carving knife in the other.

‘Hello, you,’ I smile up at him as he bends down to give me a peck on the cheek.

‘Had a good day?’ he asks. ‘Everything sorted about that dratted jury summons?’

‘No, but don’t worry, come Monday morning it will be,’ I tell him confidently.

‘Good, good, good,’ he says absently, steering me past a big mound of books scattered all over the hall and on into the kitchen, where Beatrice is cremating what looks like it once started out in life as a rabbit.

Did I tell you about Bernard? Because he’s just lovely and the total opposite of just about every eejit I’d dated right up till he and I met. With one messer in particular very much to the forefront of my mind at the minute, but we’ll just skate over him like he never existed. Mainly because that particular chapter of my life is now buried deep in the back of my mind, padlocked and labelled ‘Do not, on any account, enter’.

Trust me, you don’t want to know.

Anyway, back to Bernard who’s a big man, portly and greying, but with just the loveliest soft brown eyes. Gentle, kind eyes. He’s also a full fifteen years older than me. He just turned forty-three last year and before he and I met, he quite literally hadn’t dated since he was in college. And even that relationship petered out after just a few months.

In fact, half of me suspects that’s the primary reason why Desmond and Beatrice were so welcoming to me right from day one. Up until Bernard and I started dating, I think they’d pretty much written off their only son as being neither gay nor straight, but in that grey hinterland in between. You know, a confirmed bachelor. One of those asexual people, who’d just rather have a nice cup of tea than dip a toe into the dating pond, purely to avoid all the emotional messiness involved.

His fellow college professors had long ago written him off as a young fogey in the William Hague mode and all the students he lectures had jokingly nicknamed him Billy Bunter because of his size, when, to everyone’s astonish­ment, he suddenly started dating anew. True, he and I were a bit of an odd couple at the beginning, and attracted much head shaking and commenting behind our backs along the lines of, ‘it’ll never last’.

Even now, from the outside we look like a bit of a mismatch. There’s Bernard, in his Clark Kent glasses wearing a crumpled linen suit, dandruff all over the collar and his tie on a bit skew-ways. Whereas here’s me still in my work gear of a Lycra top, leggings, trainers and the warmest fleece I own – insurance against the cold of this house, which even in high summer never seems to get as much as a single ray of sunlight and is permanently freezing.

Even the way we met was a bit unusual and I’m only praying that his best man, a fellow professor, doesn’t raise the subject in his wedding speech. Smash Fitness, you see, the gym where I work as an instructor, is on Nassau Street, slap bang in the middle of town and just across the road from City College, where Bernard lectures.

Anyway, cut to January two years ago and Bernard decided that he was developing a bit of a middle-aged spare tyre (and I hate to use the politically incorrect term ‘porker’, but in his case it was only the truth). In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, he decided that the only thing that would do him was to join a gym. And so gung-ho was he about his new fitness regime that he even booked a few full-on gut-burning sessions with a personal trainer.

Which is where I came in. But being brutally honest, this was no Hollywood ‘meet cute’. I never really had that whole love-at-first-sight thunderbolt when I gave Bernard his first fitness assessment at the gym. Instead I took one look at this greying, overweight older man and if anything felt pity for the poor sod as I put him through a one-to-one boot camp class.

Boot camp at Smash Fitness, by the way, involves your client doing a range of squats, lunges and press-ups, while the trainer yells all manner of motivational phrases in their face like, ‘faster, harder, higher! Gimme ten more! Come on, burn it off . . . work through the pain!’ We’re actively encouraged to err on the savage side with our clients, as my boss operates under the perverse notion that the tougher and more insulting you are to people, the more likely they are to keep coming back.

It’s not my way though. Personally, I prefer to encourage clients and cheerlead them towards their fitness goals, reminding them of how far they’ve come and how well they’re doing and that’s exactly the way I treated Bernard from the word go.

God love him though, he got so sweaty and red in the face when I first put him up on a treadmill, I really thought the guy might have a heart attack.

After a meagre ten minutes of what he claimed was medieval torture, he begged for mercy.

‘I’m so terribly sorry,’ he panted, gulping for air, ‘but I’m afraid I’ve got pain in my hamstring muscles that haven’t been used in decades.’

Typical Bernard. Unfailingly polite even when on the brink of an aneurysm. So just to make sure he got value from the full hour he’d paid for, I offered to take a look at his diet, to see what improvements could be made there. It’s fairly standard practice at Smash Fitness to take clients off wheat, gluten, dairy, alcohol and sugar for a full six weeks and if clients can only stick to it, they’ll soon start to look and feel unbelievably fantastic when they see visible results. Of course, Bernard nearly baulked at this when he realised that all his much-loved teatime sherries were now well and truly out, but I held firm.

Anyway, our session was finished and he was about to go his way and I mine, when he suddenly stopped me in my tracks.

‘Tess,’ he panted, still red-faced, sweaty and out of breath. ‘I’m absolutely determined to do this correctly, you know, in for a penny, in for a pound and all that.’

‘Good for you, you won’t regret it,’ I smiled, thinking how posh the English accent made him seem. The guy actually sounded a bit like Stephen Fry.

‘The thing is, your website says that the gym offers an at-home service, where a trainer will call to your house with smoothies and then whisk you off for a brisk morning jog, isn’t that correct?’

‘Absolutely,’ I said, delighted and relieved that I hadn’t scared him off fitness for life. ‘We can call to your home or to your workplace any time that suits you.’

‘Then how’s tomorrow morning for you?’ he asked, taking off his specs and looking at me a little bit shyly.

‘Well, normally we have a rota of personal trainers and I’m afraid I’m not scheduled for tomorrow morning.’

‘Yes, that’s all well and good, but the thing is some of the other trainers are quite brutal, almost to the point of being sadistic here, I find. So if it’s quite alright, I think I’d really prefer it if it was you. In fact, I don’t want it to be anyone else except you,’ he added, the big brown eyes almost pleading with me.

What can I say? My heart went out to the poor guy and I found myself saying yes.

So the following morning I trooped around to his house at 7 a.m., with a kale, carrot and Brussels sprout smoothie, which, trust me, may look like a glass of mowed grass, but doesn’t taste nearly as revolting as it sounds.

Anticipation Of Becoming A Big Sister

Well, hello there, 3rd trimester. I cannot believe how fast this pregnancy is flying by. Only a few more months until we get to welcome our new precious baby girl.

Our little girl is so excited to meet her sister. I love the bond she has built with our unborn baby already. There is not one morning that goes by without her cuddling the bump and saying “Good morning” to her sister. She is also very careful around me – in case she hurts the baby…

She has started to sort through her old toys as she wants her baby sister to have these – I just hope she is still this enthusiastic when Baby arrives!

I really love that I can feel all the kicks, wriggles and hiccups now – there really is no better feeling! Of course, there are still also a few fears and anxieties at the back of my mind (it’s hard not to think about my previous miscarriages), but I want to forget about all these fears and enjoy the rest of this pregnancy as best as I can. It will most likely be our last, we always wanted two children to complete our family.


 I am linking this #MyCapturedMoment with Heledd at Running in Lavender.

Our thoughts on the children’s book Chicken Little (Talk of the Town #35)

Welcome back to #TalkoftheTown, a weekly link-up I am co-hosting with Shaz from Jera’s Jamboree. We’d love you to share your book related blog posts with us. Please visit my Talk of the Town page if you are unsure of how a link-up works. We are looking forward to reading your blog posts.

For this week’s Talk of the Town, I am sharing our thoughts on the children’s book Chicken Little.


This book is “slightly” controversial in our household. Our little girl is obsessed with this book and asks for it to be read as her bedtime story at least a few times a week. Whereas my husband and I are already dreading hearing the words “Chicken Little”…

Don’t get me wrong, we also liked this book quite a lot (the first 10 times or so). The storyline is quite cute and there is a fantastic moral in the end. Chicken Little is wandering through the woods, when suddenly an acorn falls on his head. He thinks, however, that the sky is falling down and sets out to tell the King. On this way, he meets several other animals who are all convinced by what he is saying is true, and together they warn other animals they meet on the way to the King’s Palace.

The story goes a little like this: Chicken Little met Henny Penny and Henny Penny met Cocky Locky and so on and so on. On each page the names are recited again and the more pages you read, the more names are being added and repeated – I am sure, you’ll get the idea and probably also understand why this book has become quite annoying for my husband and I. I feel like horrible parents, but we have actually gone so far as to hide this book on the bottom of the book pile, but after tears from our daughter because she couldn’t find her beloved book, we gave in and read it a few more times afterwards.

There are definitely books out there that I really don’t mind reading over and over again, but unfortunately Chicken Little is not one of them. Is there a book that your little ones love, but that you are utterly fed up with reading?


Gender Reveal: Are We Having a Boy or a Girl?


I feel like a bad blogger as this post is so long overdue. As I am typing this, I am already a little over 25 weeks  pregnant. We found out the sex of our baby a few weeks back, but I just didn’t find the time to write up this post. How is it that the first 12 weeks go at snail speed and as soon as the first scan is over and done with, you feel so much more relaxed and re-assured that baby is fine, time speeds up so much?

We were so excited to find out the sex of our baby. I take my hat off to the people who don’t find out the sex before the birth, but I am such an impatient person and would have not been able to wait that long. Our little girl was probably the most excited of us all. She kept on saying that she wanted a sister, someone she could share her toys and her room with. Will she get her wish?

I found the 20 week scan quite nerve-wrecking. For my husband and I, the most important thing was obviously the reassurance that baby was healthy, whether it was a boy or girl was secondary. A girl would be fantastic as we really want the children to share a room, but I also liked the idea of a boy.

Our sonographer was brilliant. She spent so much time looking at multiple angles of the baby and explained her findings to us in great detail. Just before she finished, we found out what we will be having…






 I am linking this #MyCapturedMoment with Heledd at Running in Lavender.

Just Me And Her


I still cannot believe that my little girl is no longer so little, but started school a few weeks back. She is settling in nicely and enjoys “big school” very much. I love seeing her excited little face when I pick her up from school. She is always happy and skips into my arms to give me the biggest hug (I know it won’t be like this forever, but as long as it lasts, I will truly treasure these special moments).

We are slowly settling into our routine. I walk her to school in the mornings (it takes us a good 25 minutes), then take the train into work and do the same in reverse in the afternoons. However, I am finding that the more my pregnancy progresses, the harder I find the walk to and from the train station (it also doesn’t help that the trains are constantly delayed and making me late for work). So from next week onwards, I will take her to school by car on the days that I am going into work. I am slightly worried about parking at school. There really isn’t that much room, but I suppose if we leave early enough, we should be fine. Wish me luck!

I will still savour the days on which we are walking to and from school. Especially on those beautifully crisp winter days of which we will hopefully be having quite a few. Her little hand in mine and her telling me excitedly all about her day at school – so precious! Come January, it won’t be just me and her anymore, but her little sibling to join us on our walks to school. We are all looking forward to Baby #2’s arrival so much, but as long as it is just me and her (and occasionally her daddy if he finishes work on time :-)), I will make the most of it.


Linking up with Katie from Mummy Daddy Me for Ordinary Moments.

Most Anticipated Christmas Book Releases (Talk of the Town #34)

Welcome back to #TalkoftheTown, a weekly link-up I am co-hosting with Shaz from Jera’s Jamboree. We’d love you to share your book related blog posts with us. Please visit my Talk of the Town page if you are unsure of how a link-up works. We are looking forward to reading your blog posts. I’ve mentioned this before, but I can’t say it often enough. I LOVE Christmas! Yes, it is even too early for me to think about decorations, presents etc., but it is definitely not too early for Christmas book releases. In fact, many of them have already been published during the last few days or are about to be published in the coming weeks. For this week’s Talk of the Town,I am sharing the Christmas book releases I am most looking forward to this year.


Not Just for Christmas by Alex Brown

Kitty, who runs the Spotted Pig Tea-rooms in the picturesque village of Tindledale, thinks she’s come to terms with her husband Ed’s death on active duty. When she learns that Ed’s army dog, a black Labrador named Monty, is being retired and needs rehoming, it awakens her heartache once more. Amber runs the pet parlour, but her love of dogs extends to rescuing abandoned pooches and now her tiny cottage is overflowing with homeless hounds. The only answer is to open a proper rescue centre but where will the money come from? Kitty knows she could never take on Monty – it would be too painful, but with more than one dog needing a home this Christmas, is a miracle too much to hope for?

The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

For Ava Bliss, it’s going to be a Christmas to remember … On a snowy December evening, Sam Jermyn steps into the life of bespoke hat maker Ava. Sparks fly, and not necessarily the good ones. Times are tough for Ava – she’s struggling to make ends meet, her ex-boyfriend is a bully, and worst of all, it’s nearly Christmas. So when Sam commissions Ava to make a hat for someone special, she makes a promise that will change her life. She just doesn’t know it yet…

One Christmas in Paris by Mandy Baggot

Ava and her best friend Debs arrive in Paris just as the snow starts to fall. The Eiffel Tower glitters gold and the scent of spiced wine is all around, but all Ava can think about is Leo, her no-good, cheating ex. Debs is on a mission to make Ava smile again, and as they tour the Christmas markets, watch lamplight glittering on the river Seine, and eat their body weight in pain-au-chocolat, Ava remembers there’s more to life than men … Until they cross paths with handsome, mysterious photographer Julien with his French accent and hazelnut eyes that seem to see right inside her. Ava can’t ignore the intense chemistry between them, but her fingers have been burned before and she can’t forget it, especially when her ex, Leo, starts texting again. Can Ava really trust Julien – and what exactly is his secret? Will Ava go home with a broken heart, or will she find true love amongst the cobbled streets of Paris? Join Ava and Julien in the most romantic city in the world this Christmas, as they discover the importance of being true to themselves, and learn how to follow their hearts.

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. Even if she is spending it alone housesitting a spectacular Fifth Avenue apartment. What she didn’t expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous–and mysterious–owner. Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife’s death looming, he’s isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist? Which Christmas books are you looking forward to the most? IMG-20160205-WA0003